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Kids Bicycle Helmets Buying Guide

The helmet debate continue

- to wear or not to wear, to make it compulsory or not. The arguments on both sides are complicated, but when it's boiled down, one thing is clear: helmets protect against at least some types of serious head injuries.

 Before you run out and grab any old helmet and gain a false sense of security, read on below to learn how to choose the right helmet for you.

Fit and Sizing a Bicycle Helmet for Kids

The most important thing about a helmet is the way that it fits. Without a proper fit, a helmet is next to useless.  For one, if it's not comfortable you won't want to put it on. And assuming you do wear it, it will not properly absorb and distribute shock.

Getting the proper fit is simple.  Ideally, the child can try it on.  If not, you'll need to measure their head with a tape measure, in which case you should buy a helmet with an adjustment dial to make sure the fit is perfect.

The helmet should be flush against your child's head on all sides so as to not move more than an inch in any direction when you push or pull on it. Under no circumstances should the helmet be able to be pulled off. A quick test is to buckle the straps, and pull from back to front from the rear lip of the helmet. If it comes off, it's wrong size. If it moves forward into your eyes, shorten the straps and try again until you get the right fit. Do the same pushing to the rear. If your forehead shows, shorten the straps.

You want the helmet to cover as much of the surface area on your head and be as low as one inch above the eyes in the front. Since it's not possible to virtually try on helmets, opt for those with adjustable padding so that you can get the most customised fit. It goes without saying that everyone's heads are different, so there is no sizing standard.

Helmet Safety Standards

All helmets must comply with basic safety requirements. The Snell B90 (and higher) Standards from the US are stricter, and there are some helmets on the market that pass those standards.

Something to note is that bicycle helmets are not interchangeable with skate and skateboard helmets. Bicycle helmets are meant to protect your head for one crash only. Once you have been involved in an accident, the helmet is no longer going to be of any use since the foam will have compressed upon impact. On the other hand, in skateboarding and inline skating, users fall more often and may take several hits to the head in a day. Their helmets are built to withstand multiple hits without compressing. This has to do with the foam, which is thinner and less protective on skate and skateboard helmets. Finally, this foam is meant to endure falls from shorter distances than the foam in bicycle helmets, thus making them unsuitable for biking.

Features

Imagine getting hit by a car, falling off your bike, and hitting your head once or twice in the process. Ouch. As long as your helmet stays put, your noggin should be okay. Here are some features to check out for quality assurance.

Shell -- The shell is usually made of a sturdy plastic material that acts as the first barrier against the pavement in the case of a fall. It should be able to slide without catching on the ground in any way. These days helmets often come with vents in them to help limit perspiration. However, vents mean that less of your head is protected. Really consider how much aeration you need to be comfortable and don't go overboard just because something looks cool. If you sweat profusely, consider a sweatband. Those who are bald, make sure to put sunscreen on parts of your head that will be exposed from the vents.

Foam -- Highly shock absorbent foam lines the inner portion of the helmet to provide comfort as well as protection. The thicker it is, the better. Children and the elderly should have thicker padding. Those who have small heads can benefit from adding extra padding to get the proper fit.

Straps -- Make sure that the straps and the fastener on the helmet you are buying are strong and stable. If you think that the fastener might unbuckle, you should probably try a different model. The straps should also be wide and comfortable.

Snags -- Snags are basically any portion of the helmet that can cause you to snag yourself when falling. So-called aerodynamic models, square shapes, and even vents can cause problems when taking a fall.

Design and Style

There are a few different types of helmet styles to choose from, but with all of them, there are two things that have to do with safety that are important to keep in mind.

Colour -- There are so many patterns and colours to choose from these days. Obviously, stylish looks are great to have since you will feel more confident while wearing your helmet. However, colour is more important than you may think. You should also remember that you want something that's easy to see. White and other bright colours will stand out the most on a road or when it's dark.

Visors -- One nice luxury on a helmet is to have a visor (except on road bikes where the hunched position restricts your field of view). Choose a detachable version for use on both road and mountain bikes. Keep in mind that it can be a safety hazard if you fall.

In case you want to know about the different types of helmets, here are the basics. Note that categories aren't unique and that many hybrids exist so as to make helmets more versatile for different types of riding.

Sport  -- This is simply a name for your all-around, multi-purpose bike helmet. It has a low price and is designed for the casual rider.

Mountain  -- If you are hitting the trails, you need something as rugged as your bike. That means that your helmet will be designed with a more stabilising strap and a heavier construction.

Road  -- For road bikers concerned with speed and aerodynamics, road helmets are sleeker and have better designed vents. These also cost a bit more than the average helmet. The lightweight design makes them slightly more comfortable, which explains the higher price.

Women's  -- Ladies with smaller head sizes may find these better fitting than unisex helmets.

Commuter  -- This is a term used for basic helmets that are designed to be more comfortable. Typically they are rounder, less aerodynamic, and lightweight. They usually cost more than budget models.

Kids Bicycle Helmets

Make sure though to let your child choose his or her own helmet; this way they will feel more inclined to wear it. If you can, make them choose something brightly coloured so that they will stand out.  Cheaper helmets tend to be heavier, so it might be an idea to spend a few extra pounds and get a lightweight helmet just to avoid the tricky situation of your child not wanting to wear it.

Bike helmets are not only good for bike riding; they can double as helmets for skateboarding, roller blading, or other sports if you choose the multi-purpose  kind with a Snell N-94 multi-purpose seal. Other multi-purpose helmets MUST have the right safety standard ratings to qualify from sport to sport! One last note in regards to children's helmets: Make sure not to let them onto any playground equipment until they have removed their helmet since it can snag and lead to strangling or suffocation.

Further Reading

Why don’t children wear bicycle helmets? - 82% of children under 15 years don’t where cycle helmets.
Road Safety for Children - Children not only need to use the roads with understanding, to walk and cycle in safety, but to use common sense when crossing a road or getting into a car.
Bicycle Helmet Safety for Kids - (Video) Find out how kids' bike helmets work and learn about safety ratings with help from an experienced bicycle mechanic.

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